What is this history of Fantine? It is society purchasing a slave.
From whom? From misery.
From hunger, cold, isolation, destitution. A dolorous bargain. A soul for a morsel of bread. Misery offers; society accepts.
The sacred law of Jesus Christ governs our civilization, but it does not, as yet, permeate it; it is said that slavery has disappeared from European civilization. This is a mistake. It still exists; but it weighs only upon the woman, and it is called prostitution.
It weighs upon the woman, that is to say, upon grace, weakness, beauty, maternity. This is not one of the least of man’s disgraces.
At the point in this melancholy drama which we have now reached, nothing is left to Fantine of that which she had formerly been.
She has become marble in becoming mire. Whoever touches her feels cold. She passes; she endures you; she ignores you; she is the severe and dishonored figure. Life and the social order have said their last word for her. All has happened to her that will happen to her. She has felt everything, borne everything, experienced everything, suffered everything, lost everything, mourned everything. She is resigned, with that resignation which resembles indifference, as death resembles sleep. She no longer avoids anything. Let all the clouds fall upon her, and all the ocean sweep over her! What matters it to her? She is a sponge that is soaked.
At least, she believes it to be so; but it is an error to imagine that fate can be exhausted, and that one has reached the bottom of anything whatever.
Alas! What are all these fates, driven on pell-mell? Whither are they going? Why are they thus?
He who knows that sees the whole of the shadow.
He is alone. His name is God.